NEW DELHI, India, April 11 – An Indian health warning on cigarette packets that uses an apparent picture of England footballer John Terry with a set of blackened lungs is to be withdrawn, officials said Wednesday.
Terry’s London-based lawyers had threatened to sue over the blurry photograph featuring the head and shoulders of a man closely resembling the former England captain and current skipper of Premier League side Chelsea.
“Some people raised objections to the picture. We have asked the directorate of advertisement and visual publicity to provide new pictures, which they have done,” a health ministry official told AFP.
The ministry has continued to deny the picture was of Terry, but it is distinctly similar to an image of him available on the Internet.
“Though the controversy is a part of the reason for withdrawing it, the present tobacco control dispensation is also not very happy with the quality of this image as a warning,” one official told the Indian Express newspaper.
“The picture could be of any man. It is only the fertile imagination of some who see Terry in it. However, the controversy has been an unseemly one and so we are looking at a fresh set of warnings.”
The image of a shirtless man appeared on many brands of cigarettes in India and became a talking point among football fans and tourists from England who took to Twitter to say they instantly recognised Terry.
Each packet, which normally costs about 100 rupees ($2) in India, shows the man’s blackened lungs emphasised by a red circle above a slogan in English reading “Smoking Kills”.
After the picture first appeared on cigarette packets in December, Terry’s management told AFP that his lawyers were considering legal action.
They also stressed that Terry, who has hit the headlines in the past over drinking binges, was a non-smoker.
Terry, 31, is currently sidelined by cracked ribs suffered in the first leg of Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final against Benfica on March 27.
He is also facing criminal charges in Britain over allegations of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand. He was stripped of the national captaincy over the charges.